What Juniors Need To Know About Pickleball Tournaments
Updated: Jul 31, 2019
One of the things I am often asked by other juniors is “How do I find tournaments that will let me compete?”. I certainly wanted to know that answer after I attended the 2018 Texas Open as a spectator. I discovered PickleballTournaments.com has the most comprehensive list of tournaments. There are filter options under the tournaments tab that let you search by state and city. Once you click on a tournament you are interested, look for the registration information. It will state the minimum age of players in the tournament.
Here is what I found out about tournaments in my state; most Texas tournaments had a minimum age of 19. I was so bummed out! The first tournament I found that had a minimum age that would allow me to play was 2019 Oklahoma State Games. We packed our bags and headed off to Oklahoma City for my first tournament where I took home gold medals in all 3 events I competed in. I was hooked! I wanted to play in more tournaments. My mom called tournament directors of local tournaments asking if they would lower the minimum age to let me play. Almost every tournament did! Here is how it works. They lowered the minimum age and I would play in the 19+ age group in my skill level.
The second question I am asked is how to find a junior specific tournament. The truth is there aren’t very many. Some tournaments like 2019 USAPA Mountain Regional Brigham City Memorial Tournament & 2018 Margaritaville USA Pickleball National Championships had junior events. But there are not enough juniors to divide by age and skill level. Last years Nationals had about 50 kids attending. What I have found when you play in these junior events is that the skill level is all over the place. You may have kids more like 5.0 players and some just beginning. The kids that are novice to the game and playing in their first tournament may freak out when they play against kids that are competing at a much higher competitive level. Likewise, the kids that are higher rated don’t like to thrash the newbies but they know they can’t risk the chance of hurting their own ratings by going soft on the court during a tournament like the two I mentioned previously in this article. So I personally have found that it is much more fun to play in the 19+ age/skill events in tournaments. You will be playing older people but they will be similar in skill set to your rating.
When I first started playing in tournaments, I didn’t have a partner. I would have to find a partner to play with me. I used a very helpful feature on PickleballTournaments.com called “Players Needing Partners”. This tab is located in each tournament listing when there are other people looking for partners and it identifies other players by their UTPR rating (skill level) and the event they need a partner for. You can use the hyper link to email them directly to see if you will be a good fit to play together. I found most of my partners for my first 8 sanctioned (by the USAPA: USA Pickleball Association) tournaments using “Player Needing Partners”. In those 8 tournaments I took home 14 medals.
PickleballTournament.com has agreed to make it easier for juniors to find tournaments! In the next upgrade to their system there will be a way to search for all tournaments that allow juniors to play. Until that happens, I am loading all the tournaments nationwide that have lowered their age to include juniors on the USAPA Juniors Pickleball Facebook page on the events tab.
The juniors are coming on strong this year! It won’t be long before you see more and more in your local tournaments. I love to see families playing together. What other sport can you think of where a grandfather and grandchild can compete in the same events at a tournament level? If you can think of one, I challenge you to decide if it is as much fun as pickleball.